Last Saturday, Melody and I stayed up at Zama to catch a 4 AM bus to Mt. Fuji, probably the singular symbol of Japan. Despite the early departure, it took over 3 hours to finally get there due to the holiday traffic (the Japanese Obon holiday just started), everyone trying to escape Tokyo.
After arriving, we spent a half hour or so at the 5th Station, getting a bit acclimatized to the higher altitude (around 7000 feet). We also bought our hiking sticks, which would get branded at the different stations as we ascended.
Since we got a late start, we decided that we wouldn't try to kill ourselves to get to the summit. The bus left at 6 PM sharp, and it's a long series of train rides to get back. Much better to ride. So, we decided that at about 1 PM, wherever we were, we'd start heading back down.
The climb up is a steep hike, punctuated by different "stations" where you can get snacks at ever escalating prices. We saw bananas for 500 yen on the way up (though the night before, back in civilization, we saw a watermelon for 15000 yen, or about $150...insane).
It was a lot of steep climbing, scrambling over sharp lava rocks at different parts along the way. The stick really helped, but there were a few parts where it seemed pretty precarious and exposed. Nothing really dangerous, but you wouldn't want to fall because you'd be chewed up by the rough terrain.
After about 5 hours, we made it to the 8th Station, at 3100 meters (over 10000 feet). It was about 1:30 then, so we cut across to the descending trail, and began the series of switchbacks all the way back to 5th Station. The descent took almost 3 hours itself, and though on a trail, was so steep that both of us fell a couple of times. I ripped my pants and skinned my knee up, but we made it down with enough time to grab a plate of curry rice before getting back to the bus. While we had time to spare, we were glad we didn't push it. 4 of our bus didn't make it back by the appointed time, and got left behind.
The whole day was great. The weather cooperated and was gorgeous. Even up at our high water mark, the temperature was only so cool as to have us don a long sleeve shirt. It was quite a long, hard slog up though, and we certainly slept well later that night.
Since the season closes at the end of August, I'm going to head back again for another attempt at the summit at the end of the month. Will keep you posted on what happens...